November 21, 2012—International Medical Corps has evacuated staff to safety from Goma, DRC amid heavy fighting and is mobilizing an emergency response to address urgent humanitarian needs. The rebel group March 23 Movement (M23) has seized control of Goma, the capital of North Kivu province and home to one million people, following heavy fighting with government forces since last week. With M23 looking to be headed towards Bukavu next, International Medical Corps is getting all existing DRC staff to safety.
Over 700,000 civilians are at risk from the violence. More than 25,000 people have been forced to flee Goma, adding to the 1.6 million people already displaced in North and South Kivu. At least 60,000 refugees previously hosted in Kanyaruchinya camp north of Goma have also been fled. Further, the humanitarian crisis threatens to spill over into South Kivu by pushing an estimated 50,000 internally displaced people towards Minova.
International Medical Corps anticipates shortages of essential medicines, medical supplies and fuel. Meanwhile, a power outage in Goma threatens access to clean water for thousands of people, increasing the risk of waterborne diseases. Rapid population movements are anticipated to spread cholera, which was breaking out in Kanyaruchinya.
The tensions in Goma exacerbate an already volatile and unpredictable security situation in North and South Kivu. Defections in early April within the poorly integrated Congolese army, or FARDC, led to attacks and counterattacks in recent months that left hundreds of innocent people dead and thousands displaced. In South Kivu, fighting between armed groups has caused an unknown number of casualties and 30,000 people to flee since mid-October.
International Medical Corps is active in DRC and engaging with humanitarian partners on the ground. Based on reports we are receiving from health facilities in Goma, we are mobilizing resources to get urgent pharmaceutical and medical supplies to those in need. International Medical Corps’ global security team is monitoring the situation closely and ensuring the utmost safety of our staff. With Congolese civilians highly exposed to violence, hunger and disease, International Medical Corps hopes for a swift cessation of violence so that we can provide critically-needed relief to vulnerable populations.
International Medical Corps began working in DRC in 1999 and has since served approximately two million people, 80 percent of them displaced by the war. Today, we provide health care, nutrition, food security, sexual violence prevention and treatment, and water and sanitation services in some of DRC’s most remote and volatile areas, often where the presence of other international organizations is extremely limited or non-existent.
Since its inception nearly 30 years ago, International Medical Corps' mission has been consistent: relieve the suffering of those impacted by war, natural disaster and disease, by delivering vital health care services that focus on training. This approach of helping people help themselves is critical to returning devastated populations to self-reliance. For more information visit: www.InternationalMedicalCorps.org. Also see us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.